Can you feel The Shift?
After many years editing women's magazines (Cosmo, Red, Company, Just Seventeen (RIP)), I sat back and looked around one day, and thought "WTF?!" I mean, seriously. Where had all the older women gone? And by older, I don't mean "older", I just mean not 25. You could count the number of us getting airtime on one hand. And d'you want to know why? Advertisers, that's why. Because the people who book advertising – white, male, usually under 35 – can't get their head around the "value" of women they don't want to... well, you get the picture.
So I decided to do something about it….
Towards the end of 2020 I launched The Shift with Sam Baker, a podcast where I talk to a wide range of women in midlife and beyond about life, love, work, sex, identity, money, health, shoes, representation, vanishing eyebrows... whatever they feel like chatting about. I started it because I wanted to hear these women’s voices, their experiences, their WISDOM. And, it turns out, so did a shedload of other people. Millions of you, it turned out.
Because a ‘shift’ occurs when you hit 40ish (could be later, could be earlier, everyone’s different) and it’s arguably the greatest, most interesting, most wisdom-filled time in a woman’s life. The problem is, no one wants to talk about it, let alone visualise what this point in a woman’s life looks like. It’s a time of change, it’s a time of evolution, it’s a time of chucking out all the crap that’s been holding you back.
In case you’re wondering, yes, The Shift was borne out of my own experience of turning 46 and hitting the peri-maelstrom without a clue what was happening to me. (And I say that as someone who worked in women’s magazines for the first 25 years of their professional life, so what hope was there for anyone without a health editor on tap?!) I lost my way, I lost my identity, I lost my waistline, for a long time I lost myself. But when the (brain) fog cleared, I realised life on the other side is unexpectedly liberating and I wanted to shout about it. So here I am, shouting!
This is what 52 looks like! (Me, photographed in 2019, I think, by Claire Pepper.)
I want to give women far and wide a safe space where we can talk about the things that matter. That’s why The Shift is now here on on Substack. I have always longed for a space where we can talk and share ideas; a place where we can chat about all the things that concern us – from the constant battle to care for ageing parents while doing a million other things to feeling like a bad feminist for just about everything to the best books we’ve read lately to the total impossibility of finding a decent pair of jeans if you have the hips of an adult woman to the BS “rules” society tries to force on women so we don’t dare to step out of our box.
So, that’s what you’re going to get right here.
How is this all going to work….
This Substack will have three tiers of membership:
The first will be a free tier and absolutely anyone can become a free member. In fact, if you know someone who you think might like it here then please share the love, by hitting the button below. Free members will receive a column written by me once a month and a monthly email of recommendations.
Then there’s a regular paid membership. This is £7 a month, or even cheaper, £70 a year. This is where it starts to get a bit more exciting and community-based, because here you get:
At least one newsletter a week (sometimes more)
Weekly insider book recommendations, with a monthly bookclub, regular book giveaways and online chat with the authors.
A regular chat where I’ll lead a discussion about a subject that’s been on my mind – or yours. It will be an intimate conversation where we all get to have our say far away from the world of trolls and open comments.
Access to my monthly SHIFT CLUB. This is a monthly Zoom call where we can talk about, well, whatever you fancy.
Oh, and there might be some freebies along the way, too. Maybe…
If you’re feeling flush and want to buy a gift for a friend or donate a subscription, just click here.
Finally I am offering a very limited number of founding memberships. This is for those who are in a position to make a big difference to the life of this Substack. It’s £150 and as yet I don’t know what I’ll offer beyond saying that YOU make this all possible. I won’t lie, pulling together interviews, writing, curating book lists… it all takes time. Your donation will allow me to do this and I will be forever grateful.
I realise asking for money to support a creative project like this might be new for you. It is new for me, too. But I have always thought it important to pay creatives for the work they do.
What’s more, advertising is the thing that allows most other content to remain free. But there is a price to pay for this. And that price is honesty. Because where there are advertisers there are restrictions (like the time I tried to run a feature about menopause on a certain magazine and was told a certain luxury advertiser wouldn’t like it, despite the fact their ad and said feature were separated by, ooh, 150 pages!). This is an ad- and algorithm-free space. That means what I write about is free from any other agenda, other than what I think – and you tell me – you want to read.
Of course, if you can’t afford to support this Substack and the work I do here, The Shift with Sam Baker podcast is free to listen to (though any extra bits will live here, exclusively for members) and I want it to stay that way, so as many people as possible can hear what the women on The Shift have to say.
Finally… a bit more about me
I’m a recovering magazine editor – for my sins I edited a bunch of magazines over half of which are now dead: Just Seventeen, Minx (anyone remember that?!), Company, Cosmopolitan and Red. I then went on to co-found the Webby and Lovie award-winning digital platform for women, The Pool. (Also now RIP. It’s a veritable media graveyard.) I’ve written five novels and, most recently, a memoir-come-manifesto, The Shift. I’ve also judged lots of awards, most notably the Women’s Prize. I moved to Edinburgh in 2020 – best thing we ever did – and now spend a lot of time interviewing interesting people both for The Shift with Sam Baker podcast and on stage and get to call it work.
Oh, and I’ve got a cat called Sausage. Long story.